Universities after neoliberalism

We’re used to one-way neoliberalism, regardless of party, in which we keep getting more of its familiar features: public budget austerity, marketisation, privatisation, selective cross-subsidies favouring business and technology, precarisation of professional labour, and structural racism. But under the pressure of international social forces, neoliberalism is increasingly breaking down. These forces include the Covid-19-induced public […]

On the subject of roots

In 1983, Toni Morrison’s classic interview-turned-essay ‘Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation’ was published in Mari Evans’s anthology Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation. 1 In the piece, Morrison concerns herself with the figure of the ancestor in African American literature. For her, the ancestor is a ‘distinctive element of African American writing’, and because […]

Who will survive the university?

We write as organisers of #CoronaContract, a campaign we co-founded shortly after the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, demanding a two-year contract extension for all casualised university staff (academic and non-academic). In the early days of COVID-19, when previously unthinkable forms of economic rescue took place, this demand functioned as a ‘transitional demand’ […]

Dramatic differences

Exchange: Marx’s theatre of economic categories It is a privilege to read Asad Haider’s critical response to my article, ‘The Theatre of Economic Categories: Rediscovering Capital in the late 1960s’ in Radical Philosophy 2.08). 1 His enthusiastic defence of Althusser’s theoretical innovation allows one to witness the impact of Reading Capital on a disciple who […]

Wounds of Democracy

Scholars of European history and critical theory observing American politics in recent years have often found themselves experiencing déjà vu. History, the truism goes, does not repeat itself, but last summer, with calls for ‘law and order’ and armed right-wing militias clashing with anti-racist protestors across America, many asked, what more are you waiting for? […]

Against ‘Effective Altruism’

Effective Altruism (EA) is a programme for rationalising charitable giving, positioning individuals to do the ‘most good’ per expenditure of money or time. It was first formulated – by two Oxford philosophers just over a decade ago – as an application of the moral theory consequentialism, and from the outset one of its distinctions within […]

The human mask

Exchange: Marx’s theatre of economic categories All the characters in this misunderstanding are on stage here, each playing the part ascribed to it by the effect expected of this theatre. Louis Althusser, Reading Capital You too, my friend, should have come here in disguise – as a respectable doctor of scholastic philosophy. It’s my mask […]

Counter-violence, a ‘Hegelian’ myth

Beyond a doubt Hegel knew about real slaves and their revolutionary struggles. In perhaps the most political expression of his career, he used the sensational events of Haiti as the linchpin in his argument in The Phenomenology of Spirit. The actual and successful revolution of Caribbean slaves against their masters is the moment when the […]

A liberal poetics of policy

In The Evolution of Educational Thought (1938), Emile Durkheim recounted the historical irony that undergirds the idea of institutionality – by pitting it against the birth of the university in medieval Europe. He noted how the coming into being of a corporative organisation – the universitas – was effectively an attempt at ‘unionising’ the body […]

Covid-19 and rebordering the world

In April 2021, dozens of asylum seekers were moved back to the Napier Barracks in the UK, after the barracks had been emptied a month earlier following protests and media reports on its unsuitable conditions. Migrant support groups and NGOs denounced the ‘terrible conditions of the substandard accommodation and the effects it is having on […]

Return of the conjuncture

Vittorio Morfino and Peter D. Thomas, eds, The Government of Time: Theories of Multiple Temporality in the Marxist Tradition (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017). 306pp., £91.00 hb., 978 9 00429 119 5 A sense of impending collapse is a fixture of the present. Signs abound of the limits of a worldview of infinite accumulation in […]

Border abolitionism as method

Alison Mountz, The Death of Asylum: Hidden Geographies of the Enforcement Archipelago (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020). 304pp., £81.00 hb., £20.27 pb., 978 0 81669 710 6 hb., 978 0 81669 711 3 pb. The implementation of the EU Pact on Migration in September 2020 has marked a further step in the sheer politics […]

Precarious euphoria

Tina Managhan, Unknowing the ‘War on Terror’: The Pleasures of Risk (London: Routledge, 2020). 132pp., £120.00 hb., 978 1 35104 860 6 It is a wild adventure we are on. Here, as we are rushing along through the darkness, with the cold from the river seeming to rise up and strike us; with all the […]

The doctor’s knife

Silvia Federici, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin: Rethinking, Remaking, and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2020). 145pp., £11.55 hb., 978 1 62963 706 8 Silvia Federici is one of contemporary feminism’s celebrity thinkers, and with good reason. Her work since the 1970s on capitalism and gender has been of […]

Moribund elegance

Philipp Ekardt, Benjamin on Fashion (London: Bloomsbury, 2020), 256pp., £74.59 hb., 978 1 35007 599 3 In Daniel Mourenza’s Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Film (2020), we learn that Walter Benjamin, in the summer of 1938, went to see a Katharine Hepburn film at the cinema — it might have been Holiday, it might […]

Between speculation and discipline

Christopher Tomlins, In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020). 376pp., £25.00 hb., 978 0 69119 866 8 Christopher Tomlins is not the first historian to have focused on the Nat Turner rebellion. In 1831, the slave Nat Turner led a group of blacks in an insurrection in St. […]

Contingent contagions

Angela Mitropoulos, Pandemonium: Proliferating Borders of Capital and the Pandemic Swerve (London: Pluto Press, 2020). 132pp., £14.99 pb., 978 0 74534 330 3 ‘When every home becomes a quarantine zone, and every epidemiological map is mistaken for an accurate representation of molecular spread, the convergence of neoliberalism and fascism around an oikonomic understanding of health […]

Troubled pleasures

Kate Soper, Post Growth Living: For an Alternative Hedonism (London: Verso, 2020). 240pp., £16.99 hb., 978 1 78873 887 3 Kate Soper has made some vitally important contributions to ecosocialist and feminist political theory over the last four decades and more. Her interventions around ‘troubled pleasures’, humanism and its discontents, realism/constructionism, and more, have often […]